Musicmaster/Duo-Sonic Gallery

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Background Information

A brief history

     In 1956 Fender introduced the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic guitars as affordable "3/4-size" short-scale student models. As such, they aren't considered as collectible and don't have near the value of Strats and Teles from the same era. The Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic were essentially the same guitar, with the addition of another pickup (in the bridge position) and a toggle switch on the Duo-Sonic. Both models received a slight facelift in 1959, along with all other Fenders. In 1964 the "II" variants (essentially spinoffs of the then-new Mustang) were introduced, and both models were revised and offered in a 24" scale length as well. Now essentially the same as a Mustang but with no vibrato system, the Duo-Sonic was officially discontinued ca. 1969. The Musicmaster was made through 1982, receiving a third facelift ca. 1976. A Mexican-made reissue Fender Duo-Sonic [pic c/o T. Pershing] was released in early 1993 but discontinued in early 1998.

     Two distant cousins of the original Musicmasterand Duo-Sonic are the Bronco guitar and the Musicmaster bass. In my opinion, these models owe more to the Mustang guitar and bass. The Bronco was introduced in1967 as a replacement for the Musicmaster and features a single pickup in the bridge position with a new vibrato system. (It never did replace the Musicmaster, though; both were discontinued with the advent of Fender's Squier line in the early '80s.) In the late '60s, Fender introduced the Musicmaster bass, also as ashort-scale student model. Both models were produced throughout the '70s.

     More recently, Fender revived the Duo-Sonic and Musicmaster names in its Squier line of budget guitars and basses. In late 1997 Fender re-introduced the Musicmaster bass under its Squier "Vista" nameplate. At the 1998 Winter NAMM conference, Fender announced plans to revive the Musicmaster and Duo-Sonic guitars, as part of Squier's Chinese-made "Vista" and "Affinity" series of guitars. Unfortunately, the new Musicmaster used the name only (looking more like the Musicmaster bass) and was long-scale with a single humbucker, while the "new" Duo-Sonic was almost identical to the Mexican-made reissue. All of the Squier reissues have since been discontinued. In late 1997 the Fender Cyclone effectively replaced the Mustang in Fender's catalog. Aside from the bridge humbucker, the Strat-style tremolo, and the 24.75" scale length, it looks very Duo-Sonic-esque. Most recently, the Fender Mustang and Mustang Bass were re-issued, and in 2008 the Duo-Sonic was re-re-issued by Squier as part of their "classic Vibe" series.


Online resources and credits

     The information on this site was derived from a variety of sources. For further reading, I recommend:


 

Who cares about a student guitar?

 

     Sure, few famous guitar players are regularly seen with a Musicmaster or a Duo-Sonic; even the pawnshop trash-slinging Kurt Cobain favored Mustangs and Jaguars (although I don't think Fender made lefty MM/DS guitars). However, several people of note have used them:
 

Hendrix on a Duo-Sonic
Jimi Hendrix [far right] backing up the Isley Brothers with his early '60s tan Duo-Sonic, in 1964. [photo credit: Caesar Glebbeek Collection; scan c/o T. Pershing]

 

Aside from Hendrix and SRV, the common denominator might be relatively small hands. Personally speaking, my hands like the feel of guitars with skinny necks (although I prefer the 24" scale length over the 22.5" scale). Plus, the short scale enables me to grab Andy Summers-esque jazz chords without breaking my hand.